The French adopted the bow tie from Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian war in the 1700s. The Croatians wore these "scarves" around their necks to denote rank and to distinguish the officers from enlisted men. The French who fought alongside them, adopted the style as their own. The cravat quickly become popular amongst the upper class of French society.
The bow tie is more commonly worn during formal occasions and foregone for a straight tie during business hours. Dress for success author John T Malloy wrote, "If you wear a bow tie, you will never be taken seriously and no one will ever trust you with important business."
The bow tie has seen its' ups and downs on the fashion scene. It was touted as a fashion symbol by Frank Sinatra and Henry Bogart, later becoming unpopular...seen as an unfashionable accessory, synonymous with geeks. Today, the bow tie has re-established itself as a symbol of chic with men and women on both runway and street scene working the accessory.
Ralph Lauren bow tie
Lanvin for H&M bow tie.